There’s something uniquely fun about Amy LaVere, even when she’s breaking your heart. She is well known among songwriters and critics alike. NPR’s Robert Siegel says she “specializes in lyrics that are more barbed than her sweet soprano prepares you for.” Her growing catalogue of material and steady critical acclaim suggest a first-tier presence on the Americana and indie-folk/punk circuits. Her latest album ‘Painting Blue’ comes out March 27th on Memphis based, Archer Records.
Painting Blue, produced by her husband Will Sexton, captures perfectly the moment that Amy is in. Will Sexton’s masterful production and Amy’s soft, clarinet-like vocal pour over you, pushing and pulling, stirring and calming. As we’ve come to expect, this record is honest, revealing and sounds uniquely like no one else.
Three covers continue a tradition of Amy tipping her hat to fellow creators. The production on Elvis Costello’s “Ship Building” is intimate, a kind of contemporary update on England’s Falklands war of 1982. While not directly a political song, Amy’s cover of “I Don’t Wanna Know About Evil” by John Martyn opens the record. A plea for an acknowledgment of what is beautiful in the world, it is a gorgeous track with soaring lead vocals. The final cover, David Halley’s “Stick Horse,” benefits from an acoustic production approach and Amy’s oft-called “childlike” vocals.
“No Battle Hymn” penned by Amy and husband Will Sexton, is a masterful collaboration by two accomplished songwriters. This is only the third song in their catalogues that has been a lyrical collaboration. As Amy explains, “Around the close of 2016, I was struggling with all the noise and disappointments around me. Nothing in my work of the past year seemed important anymore. The material I had amassed since my last record release felt rather small when played over the backdrop of the election, global warming doom, racial and civil tensions and the general feeling of combativeness and fear that was coming in from everywhere.” Basically, Will was noodling around with what became the opening line of the song, Amy asked to collaborate, and the lyrics were completed that same day–thus transforming the song from a potential spot on Will’s forthcoming solo record on the Big Legal Mess imprint to Painting Blue.
Things take a sensitive twist on the very personal and candid song “No Room for Baby.” Here Amy takes an uncomfortable look at the reasons she hasn’t had children. It’s a beautiful and moving composition.
“Love I’ve Missed” speaks directly to the fear people often experience in the beginning stages of a relationship. The song’s sweet melody and staccato bridge are beautifully crafted and make it one of the catchier tunes penned by Amy in this collection.
“Not in Memphis” is classic Memphis groove. The tongue-and-cheek lyrics that playfully tease of infidelity if the narrator is left alone, the restless spirit Amy has revealed before in previous songs, and soulful production combine to make this track, perhaps, the most fun.
“Girlfriends” one of the earliest tunes to be played out live, pokes fun at the power of cliques and urges the listener of either gender to be an individual.
The title track Painting Blue is moving and complicated on a lyrical level; Will Sexton’s masterful production and Amy’s soft, clarinet-like vocal pour over you, pushing and pulling, stirring and calming.
Amy LaVere – Painting Blue
1. I Don’t Wanna Know
2. No Battle Hymn
4. You’re Not In Memphis
5. Love I’ve Missed
6. No Room For Baby
7. Stick Horse
9. Painting Blue (on Everything)
Amy’s live performances are anything but predictable. She might appear on stage with a full band, sporting a mask and pink wig, or simply be a natural in blue jeans and sandals, but her upright bass and clever song delivery are constants. Her voice is at once the bully and the victim. She’s performed in venues as wide-ranging as St. Andrew’s Hall in London and Memphis’ famed dive bar Earnestine and Hazel’s. There’s no room she can’t find an audience in and charm it to pieces.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, this future bard moved continuously throughout childhood due to her father’s job. She spent notable parts of her life in Canada, Texas, Maryland, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. Outside of Detroit and only just entering high school, Amy formed her first band and began writing and performing. Music fans first discovered this “sweet soprano” on ‘This World is Not My Home’ in 2005, but it was her Jim Dickinson-produced breakout album ‘Anchors & Anvils’ two years later that put Amy LaVere on the map. ‘Stranger Me’, the 2011 release on Archer Records, was called “the break-up album of the year” by Spin. Paste said it was “among the year’s best,” and it earned a first listen feature from NPR’s All Things Considered. She followed it in 2014 with another critical smash: ‘Runaway’s Diary’, a concept album based on her own experience as a teenage runaway, produced by Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars). American Songwriter called it “boundary pushing… heartfelt, reflective, challenging and consistently compelling.” NPR Music’s Robert Christgau said it was her best yet. Of Hallelujah I’m A Dreamer (Archer Records, 2015) No Depression said simply: “pure bliss.”
In addition to her solo records and a tireless touring schedule, Amy enjoys working with other artists. In 2012 she joined an all-star collaboration called The Wandering, composed of Amy, Luther Dickinson, Shannon McNally, Sharde Thomas and Valerie June. They released Go On Now, You Can’t Stay Here (Songs Of The South, 2012) to critical acclaim and sold-out shows.
In the afterglow of The Wandering, Amy and Shannon McNally hit the road together and released an EP titled Chasing the Ghost, The Rehearsal Sessions (Archer Records, 2012), featuring songs from both artists recorded live during rehearsals for the tour. Amy next paired up with noted Memphis rocker John Paul Keith to create Motel Mirrors. Their styles clearly complemented one another, which made for magic on stage and in the recording studio. Their eponymous vinyl EP release was named one of the “10 Essential Albums of 2013” by No Depression. In 2017 Motel Mirrors released a full length effort, In the Meantime; this record had the addition of some Will Sexton co-writes and his powerful guitar work throughout. Motel Mirrors later released a live recording, Gotta Lotta Rhythm, on the Italian label Wild Honey